With new recording artists like George Ezra, we’re now well into our third generation of English lads influenced by mid-20th century American blues musicians taking what they’ve heard and refashioning it in their own voices.
And if they keep coming up with songs like the sweet, quirky and undeniably catchy “Budapest”, it won’t be long until the fourth generation comes around.
Here are The Chieftains, in a weirdly entrancing video from the early 1970s—before Stanley Kubrick tapped them to provide the score to his film, Barry Lyndon, which started their rise to worldwide acclaim and a dual career as ambassadors of traditional Irish music and a delightfully genre-hopping backup band to many of the best vocalists around—playing “The Morning Dew”.
Cosimo Matassa, owner of J & M Studios and the recording engineer who did more than any other to define the New Orleans sound that helped birth rock and roll, died last week at the age of 88.
That means he was about 23 when he recorded “The Fat Man”, Fats Domino’s first single which has its own claim to the title of First Rock And Roll Song. That’s Earl Palmer’s backbeat riding steady throughout the song, underneath the Fat Man’s rollicking piano and booming, confident vocals.
The new Laura Nyro tribute album out this week serves as a useful reminder of what a phenomenally talented songwriter Nyro was.
As you can hear on her own version of “Eli’s Coming” (more famously covered by Three Dog Night and Maynard Ferguson), Nyro drew on a wealth of influences and musical traditions, but none more centrally than the great early 1960s “girl groups” of her New York City childhood.
Charlie Parr and his National resonator guitar dig deep into the Piedmont country-blues-gospel tradition to come up with “Jubilee”.
Deep enough that the chorus (“Are you ready, are you ready, for the year of jubilee? Are you ready, are you ready for what is bound to be?”) is just the start.
Parr digs deeper, excavating layers of radical and prophetic traditions—from ancient Israel to 19th & 20th century American agrarian populists—and lays out the cost of jubilee for those who’ve profited during ordinary times:
Are you ready to turn in the keys to your mansion and your lot, and share the excess of your wealth and all that you have got? [...snip...]
Are you ready to take your share and share out all the rest, make sure that none go hungry or have no place to rest?
It may be good news, but it’s not an easy good news.